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Paxton’s trial date set

Mark your calendars.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will face trial in December for the first of three criminal charges, a Houston judge ruled Thursday.

Jury selection will begin Dec. 1 and testimony will start on Dec. 11 for the single count of failing to register as an investment adviser with the state.

Paxton, who was indicted in 2015, also faces two first-degree felony charges of securities fraud.

The hearing Thursday was the second in the case for state District Judge Robert Johnson of the 177th Criminal Court, a freshman jurist assigned to oversee Paxton’s case after it was moved from the attorney general’s home of Collin County.

Paxton’s trial was originally scheduled for May, then moved to September. Both those dates were scrapped amid upheaval over where the trial should be held and whether the visiting judge would remain at the bench.

See here and here for the background. The start date for the trial also happens to be the filing deadline for 2018, so Republicans could be a bit out of luck if Paxton has no primary opponent. The issue of who is paying for the special prosecutors remains unresolved, though there may be a further hearing from Judge Johnson on the matter. For now at least, we have a trial date. The DMN and the Trib have more.

First Paxton trial hearing in Harris County

Not much happened, but there are some big questions to address.

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The securities fraud case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton kicked off Thursday in Harris County with no new trial date being set.

Instead, the new judge in the case, Robert Johnson, asked both sides to come back July 27 to continue discussing a potential schedule. Prosecutors pushed to hold off setting a trial date until they can get paid – an issue currently tied up in a Dallas appeals court.

Paxton has had two previous trial dates scrapped due to legal disputes – first over the venue, then over the judge. The hearing Thursday was the first time Paxton appeared before Johnson, the new judge, in the relocated venue of Harris County.


The issue of the prosecutors’ pay has long consumed the case. Collin County commissioners voted last month not to approve payments to the prosecutors and to instead take the dispute to the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals, where it has not yet been resolved.

“As long as they continue to sue us, our hands our tied,” said one of the prosecutors, Brian Wice. “This is an unprecedented attempt to defund and ultimately derail the prosecution.”

Paxton’s lawyers countered that the payment case could take much longer than the prosecutors were letting on.

“Whether they get their money is not our problem,” Paxton lawyer Dan Cogdell said, adding that the citizens of Texas also deserve a speedy trial. “He is the sitting attorney general.”

See here and here for some background. As the DMN notes, the 5th Court of Appeals says it will issue a ruling in the Paxton prosecutors pay lawsuit sometime after July 19. How much after, we don’t know. Maybe the issue will be moot by the time July 27 rolls around. Modulo further appeals, of course. Judge Johnson has asked both parties to submit procedural timelines of the case by July 7, for that July 27 hearing. Maybe we’ll get some of these questions answered then. The Chron has more.

Paxton gets his new judge

From the Be Careful What You Wish For department:

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has received a new judge in his securities fraud case.

Harris County District Judge Robert Johnson’s court has been randomly assigned to the case, according to Bill Murphy, a spokesman for the county district clerk.

Paxton’s lawyers had fought for months to get rid of the previous judge, George Gallagher, who had presided over the case since its early days in 2015. They were finally successful last week when the state’s highest criminal court declined to overturn an appeals court ruling backing their push for a new judge.

Last year, Johnson, a Democrat, narrowly unseated a Republican incumbent, Ryan Patrick, the son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

See here for the background. That sound you heard was karma committing a hit-and-run on Ken Paxton’s dogma. I mean look, I’ve been saying all along that the “win” Paxton scored in getting Judge Gallagher was in name only, since (unless one truly believed Judge Gallagher had been issuing or would be expected to issue rulings unfair to Paxton) one judge should be more or less like any other. As such, getting Judge Johnson should not mean anything to the prosecution or the defense either, at least pending any rulings he makes that may be fodder for a future appeal. However tasty the irony of all this is, it wasn’t really a “win” for Paxton when Gallagher got booted and it’s not really a “loss” with Johnson being selected. It’s just another judge, who will proceed to do what judges do. The Chron has more.

We have the Paxton case

By “we”, I mean Harris County.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s criminal case is officially moving to Harris County.

In an order signed Friday morning, Judge George Gallagher vacated several previous orders scheduling hearings in the case and directed the Collin County District Clerk’s Office to transfer the proceedings to the Harris County District Clerk.

Gallagher’s order effectively triggers the search for a new judge in the case, following up on a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling this week that removed him as the judge who would presided over the embattled attorney general’s securities fraud and registration case. Special prosecutors asked the court to keep Gallagher.

The ruling marked a win for the first-term Republican attorney general who has been fighting to remove the judge from his case since Gallagher opted to move the trial out of Paxton’s home of Collin County in April.

See here, here, and here for the background. I always want to put the “win” here in quotes, since I believe it’s a victory in name only, with no practical effect. But I suppose it makes Paxton feel better, so we mustn’t discount that.

The DMN adds some technical details.

A new judge will be assigned by random. Harris County assigns judges for criminal cases using the “Automated Random Assignment System,” a kind of massive bingo cage containing 220 balls that spits out assignments.

On Thursday, Harris County District Courts Administrator Clay Bowman told The Dallas Morning News that Administrative Judge Robert Schaffer would be shepherding the assignment.

“Our local administrative judge is the person who will be handling, sort of shepherding, the assignment of the case,” said Bowman, who added Olen Underwood, the regional presiding judge for Harris and 34 other counties in southeast Texas, would likely also be involved.

There are nearly two dozen criminal district judges in Harris County who could be assigned the case. Nearly half are Democrats. These judges, who are locally elected, have received thousands of dollars in donations from all three prosecutors and two of Paxton’s top attorneys in the past.

This story also calls the ouster of Judge Gallagher as a “win” – specifically, a “major victory” – for Paxton. I wonder if that narrative will change if he draws a Democratic judge. Not that it should matter, of course – it shouldn’t matter in any event who the judge is, since they’re supposed to be all impartial and judicial and all. But whatever. The updated Chron story, which refers to Paxton being handed a “major win”, says that the judicial bingo process should occur “sometime very early [this] week”, so we’ll keep an eye on that. Mazel tov to whoever gets this one dropped in their lap.

CCA declines to get involved in Paxton judge dispute

That’s that, then.

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Texas’ highest criminal court has declined to intervene in the dispute over the judge in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s securities fraud case.

On Friday, prosecutors asked the state Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse a lower appeals court ruling that supported Paxton’s push to remove the judge, George Gallagher. On Wednesday, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the prosecutors’ request without explanation.

The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals had ruled Gallagher lost jurisdiction over the case when he changed venue to Harris County in April. The ruling voided all subsequent orders by Gallagher, including one that slated a September trial date.


Before the appeals court ruling, Paxton was set to go to trial Sept. 12 in Houston on the lesser of three charges he faces.

See here for the background. As I said, I really don’t think it makes any difference who the judge is – certainly, it shouldn’t make any difference, given how this is supposed to work. Whatever the merits of how we got here, I say let’s get another judge in place and get this show on the road. The DMN has more.

Paxton prosecutors appeal decision to boot judge

And on we go.

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Prosecutors in the securities fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton are asking the state’s highest criminal court to overturn a ruling backing his push for a new judge.

Paxton’s lawyers scored a win Tuesday when a state appeals court ruled the judge, George Gallagher, had lost jurisdiction by changing venue to Harris County in April. The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals directed Gallagher to vacate all subsequent orders, including one that set a September trial date.

On Friday, prosecutors responded to that ruling by asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse it, suggesting the 5th Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to make the decision in the first place. They also questioned the court’s interpretation of a part of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure that Paxton’s team has leaned on in its campaign for a new judge.

The prosecutors are asking for oral arguments before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

See here for the background. I imagine for the prosecutors it’s not a matter of who the presiding judge is but of the trial schedule. Installing a new judge means pushing back the September 12 trial date, possibly by a lot. The special prosecutors, I am sure, would like to eventually wrap this business up and get back to their regular lives. Add in the jeopardy to them getting paid for their work, and they are strongly incentivized to bring this to a close. We’ll see what the CCA has to say.

5th Court rules Paxton judge overstepped

Yet another bizarre turn in this increasingly bizarre case.

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A state appeals court sided Tuesday with Attorney General Ken Paxton in his bid for a new judge in his securities fraud case, ruling the current judge lost jurisdiction when he changed venue to Harris County in April.

The court also directed the judge, George Gallagher, to vacate all subsequent orders, including one that set a September trial date.

The ruling by the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals appears to add some uncertainty to the case, though it represents a breakthrough for Paxton’s lawyers. For weeks, they have been arguing Gallagher did not have the authority to follow the case out of Collin County.

The appeals court did not explicitly order Gallagher’s removal from the case but voiced agreement with Paxton’s lawyers that he is “without authority to continue to preside over” it. Paxton’s attorneys have repeatedly argued Gallagher cannot follow the case to Harris County because they have not provided written permission as required under the state’s Code of Criminal Procedure.

In issuing his opinion Tuesday, Justice Robert Fillmore also lifted a stay the appeals court had put on the trial court proceedings earlier this month.

See here for the background. The Chron adds some details.

The decision vacates all decisions made by Tarrant County Judge George Gallagher after his April 11 ruling to move the case across the state amid concern about Paxton’s political connections in the attorney general’s home county.


“Under the plain language of the statute, (Gallagher) is without authority to continue to preside over the cases and is also without authority to issue orders or directives maintaining the case files in Collin County. Consequently, all orders issued by (Gallagher) after he signed the April 11, 2017 transfer order are void,” read the ruling written by Justice Robert M. Fillmore.

Absent an appeal to the state’s court of criminal appeals, the ruling dictates that Gallagher is no longer responsible for the case. The ruling also calls for court documents to be moved to Harris County where another judge would be appointed.

The ruling also nixes a trial date for Sept. 12, when the state’s special prosecutors were expected to try Paxton on charges he failed to register as an insurance adviser. When the trial will be held would be up to a new judge, possibly delaying a resolution on the case as Paxton’s political adversaries determine whether the criminal charges will hurt him in the next election. The filing deadline to run for office is in December.

OK, so this is obviously a win for Paxton, since he’s been fighting like a cornered wolverine to get Judge Gallagher off the case. Mission almost certainly accomplished! That said, this feels like a win on paper that may not translate to much in practical terms. For one thing, the trial will still be in Harris County – Paxton had opposed the change of venue – and argued that all of Judge Gallagher’s rulings since January were invalid. As far as I know, the last ruling of any consequence by Judge Gallagher was the move to Harris County, which was on April 11. Other than having the administrative judge for the region appoint someone new to the bench, it’s not clear to me what else has changed.

And not to put too fine a point on it, as aggrieved as Paxton is by Judge Gallagher’s rulings, who’s to say any other jurist would have ruled differently? Unless you believe that Judge Gallagher had it in for Paxton, I don’t see why any other judge would be likely to make a difference in the outcome. So fine, bring on a new judge. And let Paxton go unchallenged in the primary because he hasn’t been adjudicated yet. If he winds up being convicted next May or so, that will be fine by me. The DMN has more.

Paxton’s pastor sues Servergy case witnesses

My head is spinning.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s pastor has sued the lead witnesses against him in his upcoming criminal trials.

Last week, Prestonwood Baptist Church Executive Pastor Mike Buster filed a lawsuit against Rep. Byron Cook and Florida businessman Joel Hochberg, the two men named on Paxton’s fraud indictments. Paxton attends Prestonwood’s main campus in Plano.

Buster alleges that Cook and Hochberg bilked him out of about a half-million dollars, described as “a substantial percentage of his personal net worth.” Cook was manager of an energy asset management company that Buster says recommended he purchase mineral rights from Cook and Hochberg “at exorbitant markups and after very short holding times.”

The asset management company did not disclose that its own managers would benefit from the sale, Buster adds, omissions he said in part caused him “to lose virtually his entire investment.” Paxton, who was also manager of the company, is not mentioned in the suit.


Buster’s lawsuit is very similar to, and builds off, similar allegations lobbed against Cook and Hochberg earlier this year. That lawsuit was filed by Charles Loper III, who’s in charge of Paxton’s newly formed blind trust.

I haven’t read the lawsuit and don’t have any opinion on it. I don’t appear to have noted the Loper lawsuit, so I’ll pass on that as well. Does any of this have anything to do with the case against Paxton? I have no idea, but would anyone be surprised if this was an attempt to damage the main witnesses against him? I wouldn’t. Whatever it is, it’s a little weird and it’s worth noting for future reference, just in case.

Appeals court to determine if Paxton gets a new judge

Hold everything.

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A state appeals court has intervened in the securities fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton, putting it on hold as his lawyers try to get a new judge.

Hours after Paxton’s team requested that the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals get involved, the court on Tuesday issued a stay of all proceedings in the case until further notice. The court gave all sides until May 23 to respond to Paxton’s effort to ditch the judge, George Gallagher.

The order by the 5th Court of Appeals means there will no longer be a hearing Thursday in Houston on a prior attempt by Paxton to install a new judge.


In their filing with the 5th Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning, Paxton’s lawyers argued that once Gallagher changed the venue, “he was statutorily prohibited from entering further orders or continuing to preside over the case without the statutorily required written consent of” Paxton and his team.

In a subsequent letter to the appeals court, prosecutor Brian Wice argued the court did not have the jurisdiction to consider Paxton’s request to remove Gallagher. The court has also set a May 23 deadline for Paxton’s lawyers to respond to Wice’s letter.

This is another instance where the news moved faster than I did. Originally, Judge Gallagher scheduled a hearing for Thursday to take up the question of whether he needed to hand the case off to another judge. Then Paxton filed his emergency motion with the 5th Court of Appeals, and then they stepped in. Beneath the fold is all of the blogging I had done on this, which is now mostly of historical value. All I can say at this point is that after all the work Paxton’s team has done to remove Gallagher, it would be hilarious if they get their wish but then don’t get any more favorable handling from whoever succeeds Gallagher. Read on, and the DMN has more.


Paxton tries again – and fails – to get a new judge

Never give up, never surrender, I guess.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s criminal defense lawyers filed a motion Wednesday arguing the judge assigned to oversee his securities fraud trial is ineligible to oversee the case because his appointment was temporary.

Legal experts say the argument appears dubious as Paxton’s legal team looks for ways to secure a new judge in a high-profile legal battle that could decide the political fate of the state’s most embattled Republican.

“Big firms fight for every inch,” said Edward Mallett, a Houston criminal defense lawyer. “I admire the lawyers for being scrappy.”

The motion argues that any rulings District Judge George Gallagher has made in the attorney general’s case since in 2017 should be “vacated and declared void,” including his decision to move the trial out of Paxton’s back yard of Collin County and into Harris County. The case should be reassigned to a new Collin County jurist who assumed office in January, according to the motion.


Paxton’s legal team filed the motion with Judge Mary Murphy, the presiding judge of the First Administrative Judicial Region, arguing she had assigned Gallagher to her region until Dec. 31, 2016, which should render rulings he’s made since then null and void.

She assigned Gallagher to hear cases in the region on July 29, 2015 to last “until the plenary power has expired or the undersigned Presiding Judge has terminated this assignment in writing, whichever occurs first.”

“Plenary power” refers to a court’s power to dispose of a matter before it, according to Black’s Law Dictionary. That means Gallagher likely has the power to stay with the case until the end, regardless when his time in the judicial region expires, said Mallett, past president of the national, state and county association of criminal defense lawyers. He said the filing’s lack of reference to case law likely reveals that Paxton’s legal team is looking for creative ways to remove the judge without past precedent to back up their arguments.

“This is Texas: issues not clearly controlled by precedent are influenced by politics. The law is art and science combined,” said Mallett.

See here, here, and here for the background. The Trib adds some details.

In their Wednesday filing, Paxton’s lawyers said Gallagher had “no authority” to make rulings in 2017 because his assignment to the case expired at midnight on Dec. 31, 2016. They base that claim on an assignment order that has not previously come to light in the case.

In addition to the order to change the venue, Gallagher’s rulings this year included denials of motions to dismiss and to delay until prosecutors can get paid. The judge declined to comment through a spokeswoman on the Wednesday filing.

Gallagher, who is from Tarrant County, has presided over the case since its early days in 2015, when Collin County’s Chris Oldner stepped aside due to his ties to Paxton. Oldner did not seek re-election in 2016, instead running for a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a race he lost. Oldner was succeeded by Andrea Thompson.

The case should now return to Thompson, Paxton’s team said in its Wednesday filing, which was addressed to Mary Murphy, the presiding judge of the First Administrative Judicial Region of Texas.

I Am Not A Lawyer, so I can’t tell you how good an argument this was, but I can tell you that it didn’t work.

On Thursday morning, Paxton’s attorneys were told their latest request that Judge George Gallagher be forced to step down could not be honored. Why? The court they asked does not have the authority to make this decision.

“The undersigned does not have that power,” Judge Mary Murphy, presiding judge in the First Administrative Judicial Region, wrote in an email. The decision, she said, lies with “the trial court and the appellate courts.”

My take on this is that the administrative judge Murphy says Paxton should be taking this up with judges Gallagher (who has already expressed his opinion) and Thompson in the 416th Court in Collin County, where this whole thing originated. Assuming Judge Thompson has no interest in taking this case back to her court, then the next step for Paxton would be to ask the appellate court, which could be the Fourth Court (which has jurisdiction over Collin County) or one of the First and 14th Courts, which rule for Harris County. I’ll bet a dollar we’ll see that happen in short order.

Paxton still pushing for a new judge

Still, he persisted, I guess.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawyers are not giving up in their bid to get a new judge in his securities fraud case.

Earlier this month, Judge George Gallagher ordered Paxton’s trial be moved to Harris County from Collin County, where Paxton lives, after prosecutors argued Paxton and his allies had tainted the jury pool there. Paxton’s team wrote Friday to Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel requesting that he assign the case to a new judge. Paxton “has not and will not give” his permission for the current judge to follow the case to Harris County, Paxton’s lawyers wrote to Daniel.

The letter, which was filed in court Monday, is the latest development in a standoff between Paxton’s team and Gallagher, whose spokeswoman said last week he will remain on the case. The spokeswoman, Melody McDonald Lanier, also said Gallagher does not need to rule on a motion Paxton’s lawyers made earlier this month that amounted to their initial request for a new judge.

In the letter to Daniel, Paxton’s lawyers continued to cite a part of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure that says a judge ordering a change of venue may only continue to preside over the case with the consent of both sides. Gallagher, who is from Tarrant County, has been presiding over the case since its early days in 2015.

See here and here for the background. I know that the District Clerk assigns district court judges in new cases, but this is a continuation of a previous case, and it’s one where the judge was assigned from another county after the original judge recused himself. Is there anything in existing law to suggest that the District Clerk has the authority to assign a new judge after the venue was changed to the Clerk’s county? I have no idea, and based on the prior reports, this is something no one has asked for before. I’m kind of wondering why Team Paxton hasn’t gone to the 1st or 14th Courts of Appeals with this request; maybe he wants to show that he exhausted all other avenues first. Whatever the case, I have to assume the question will eventually wind up there. And I have to wonder, is this all worth it? Do they really think they’ve been screwed by Judge Gallagher so far, and that the risk of making things really awkward in his court is worth the possibility of getting a different judge, one who may not have any more tolerance for his lawyers’ tactics? Again, I have no idea. But it sure is fun to watch. The Chron has more.

No new judge for Paxton


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State District Judge George Gallagher will remain on the securities fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton, according to a spokeswoman for the judge.

It was originally believed Gallagher would have to rule on a request Paxton’s lawyers made this month for a new judge. But the spokeswoman, Melody McDonald Lanier, said Monday that he does not and will continue presiding over the case.

The request came shortly after Gallagher moved Paxton’s trial to Harris County. Prosecutors had successfully sought a venue change, arguing Paxton and his allies had tainted the jury pool in Collin County, where he lives.

Paxton’s lawyers believe Gallagher had been misled into changing the venue.

See here for the background. The reporting I have seen suggests this is something Paxton can appeal, but as this is basically unprecedented we’re all kind of muddling along and waiting to see what happens. So who knows? The DMN has more.

Paxton wants a new judge

He may not get his wish.

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The judge presiding over Attorney General Ken Paxton’s criminal trial plans to remain on the case, regardless of Paxton’s request for a new judge, his spokesman said.

“He anticipates remaining the judge,” District Judge George Gallagher’s spokeswoman Melody McDonald Lanier told the Houston Chronicle Thursday.

Paxton’s criminal defense team requested a new judge after Gallagher moved Paxton’s criminal trial to Harris County from Paxton’s home of Collin County, a move the attorney general’s lawyers opposed. Special prosecutors argued the attorney general’s allies had worked to poison the jury pool there.

Lawyers representing the embattled Republican attorney general said in a motion Tuesday they would refuse to sign off on a procedural move to to keep Gallagher with the case at it moves to Harris County.

Asked for comment about Paxton’s motion to remove him as the case’s judge, Gallagher’s spokeswoman said “He can’t comment because he is the judge and he anticipates remaining the judge.”


“As far as I know, there is nothing in the Code of Criminal Procedure that addresses what is to happen if the defendant or defense counsel withholds the consent to which article 31.09 refers,” said George Dix, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, referring to the code Paxton cited in his motion. “No case, as far as I know, has addressed the meaning of this provision.”

See here and here for the background. As the DMN notes, what Paxton is asking for is basically unprecedented.

It’s quite possible no one else has ever asked for what Ken Paxton wants now.

This week, after Judge George Gallagher moved the attorney general’s upcoming criminal trials from Collin to Harris County, Paxton asked for a new judge. He cited a state law that’s meant to be procedural, a way for Gallagher to maintain the original case number and continue to use his own court reporter and clerk when the proceedings move to Houston.

But Paxton’s attorneys have interpreted the law to also require their client’s “written consent” for Gallagher to continue presiding over the case.

Paxton didn’t give his consent. He’s the first to refuse to do so and ask for a new judge in the process, experts said.


If Paxton’s motion is granted and upheld on appeal, it could set a precedent that will allow any criminal defendant or prosecutor to use the same tactic and get a new judge if a case is moved. But it’s unclear how likely that is to occur.

If Judge Gallagher denies the motion, the Chron story suggests any appeals would be heard by either the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas or the 1st or 14th Court of Appeals in Houston. I don’t think this is likely to affect the proposed trial calendar, but as noted we are in unprecedented territory here. Already the entertainment value of this proceeding is off the charts, and we’re still five months away from jury selection.

Paxton’s trial date set for September 12

Mark your calendars.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s newly relocated criminal trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 12.

The judge in the case set the trial date Wednesday, a day after moving the proceedings to Harris County. The trial had originally been scheduled to start May 1 in Collin County.

The judge, George Gallagher, said in his scheduling order that the trial “will conclude no later than” Sept. 22. The order also said jury selection will begin Sept 11.


Paxton is now seeking a new judge in the case. Hours after Gallagher sent the trial to Harris County on Tuesday, Paxton’s lawyers told the judge they would not give their permission for him to follow the case to the new venue.

See here for the background, and here for more on Paxton’s attempt to get a new judge. I presume someone still needs to rule on that motion, and my guess is that first Judge Gallagher will have the opportunity to step down on his own, and if he chooses not to do so the administrative judge will rule on the motion. (You lawyers please feel free to correct me on this.) I don’t think that will take enough time to disrupt the proposed schedule, but if a new judge is installed I suppose it could. Finally, note that Paxton will only be tried on the lesser charge that he failed to register with the state securities board. If he is convicted, then prosecutors will proceed on the much more serious charges of securities fraud; if they fail, I presume they will cut their losses and go home. Between this and the Stockman trial, we’ve got quite the full calendar ahead of us. The Chron has more.

Paxton trial moved to Harris County

The circus is coming to town, with none of those morally questionable animal acts to get all angsty about.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton will face a jury in Harris County on felony criminal charges he committed securities fraud and failed to register with the state as an investment advisor, a district judge ruled Tuesday.

District Judge George Gallagher opted to relocate Paxton’s criminal trial across county lines last month after citing concern that political influences are strong in the attorney general’s home of Collin County where he originally was set to be tried.

“Harris County was selected because the lead counsel for the state and the defense are located there. Harris County also has the facilities to accommodate the trial,” Gallagher said in a statement.

Paxton’s lawyers have opposed the change of venue and say a recent poll shows possible jurists in Collin County are largely undecided about the case. However, attorneys on both sides agreed to allow the court to relocate the trial to a county not adjacent to Paxton’s home county, according to the ruling.

See here for the background. If you live in Harris County and receive a jury summons in the next few weeks, that may end up being a more exciting experience than you’d normally expect.

And with the change in venue, it appears there will be a change of judge as well.

Paxton’s attorneys filed a motion hours later asking that a new judge from Harris County be assigned to the case.

“By this motion, Paxton respectfully advises the Court that he will not be giving the statutorily-required written consent… to allow the Honorable George Gallagher or his court staff to continue to preside over the matter in Harris County,” the motion reads.

Needless to say, there’s no trial date set yet. The questions of who will preside over the case and in which courtroom will have to be settled first, and the new judge will have to get up to speed. I may have to reconsider my original expectation that there will be a verdict before next November. Anyway, time to stock up on popcorn and get ready for the show. You can see copies of the judge’s order and the Paxton motion here, and the Trib and the Dallas Observer have more.

Paxton case gets moved out of Collin County

Well, well, well.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s upcoming trials will be moved out of Collin County, the judge presiding over his criminal fraud case decided Thursday.

The ruling is a major victory for the prosecutors, who have for months argued that Paxton’s friends and political allies have sought to malign them in the court of public opinion here, where the attorney general has lived and worked for decades.

Judge George Gallagher ruled the trials should be moved out of Paxton’s backyard but did not set a location for where they would take place. The trials, which were to kick off May 1, will be delayed until a new venue is set.

Both the prosecutors and Paxton’s attorneys denied to comment on the ruling. Gallagher imposed a strict gag order on the parties Wednesday, saying there would be “no more statements to the press.”

In his ruling, Gallagher did not elaborate on why he sided with the prosecution. He also denied Paxton’s request to have his indictments thrown out.

See here for the background on the venue change. Judge Gallagher also denied the special prosecutors’ motion to delay the trail until the lawsuit over their pay is resolved. The hearing that led to all these rulings happened on Wednesday, and this story has some details about how that went.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Paxton’s attorneys rejected claims of a concerted effort in Collin County — where Paxton has lived and worked for years — to malign the prosecutors and skew public opinion in Paxton’s favor. They also released a poll, done by longtime Republican pollster Glen Bolger, that they said showed Paxton had no “home team advantage.”

Bolger’s poll showed that of the 400 people surveyed, a majority were aware that Paxton had been indicted, but few said they had enough facts to decide whether he was guilty or innocent. Of those who knew about the indictments, 14 percent thought he was guilty and 9 percent innocent, and more people now believed he is guilty than they did when he was first charged.

“If there’s been a campaign, it’s been pretty darn ineffective,” Bolger, who said he was paid $12,000 to take the poll, told the court. “People’s attitudes are not being significantly impacted by what has happened so far.”

Also on Wednesday, prosecutors submitted several new pieces of evidence that they said showed the trials should be moved, including a new lawsuit aimed at blocking their pay — which has been on hold since earlier this year — and an invitation to a fundraiser for Paxton co-hosted by four Collin County commissioners and a handful of state lawmakers.

The event took place at the McKinney home of Keresa and JR Richardson in December 2013, a year and a half before Paxton was indicted. At the time, Paxton was a state senator running for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

As the Wednesday hearing was wrapping up, Gallagher questioned the ethical implications of the fundraiser, saying he was concerned about lawsuits filed “by folks that have a great deal of control in this county.”

“We may have a problem here,” said Gallagher. “We may have an ethical problem.”

Collin County Judge Keith Self, one of the fundraiser’s honorary co-hosts, told The News on Thursday that the event was “not germane” to Paxton’s criminal case because it took place well before his 2015 indictment.

“This was 18 months prior to the indictment being released, and Ken Paxton at the time was a sitting state senator,” Self said, adding it would “have been strange” if they hadn’t supported his bid for attorney general.

So the bottom line is, there will be a trial – the latest motion to have the charges thrown out had to do with some allegations by the defense regarding the grand jury; that part of the hearing was done in chambers, so as to preserve the secrecy of the grand jury process – it will not begin on May 1, and it will be someplace else. When we know where it will be, we ought to know when it will be as well. Stay tuned. A statement from the Lone Star Project is here, and WFAA and the Trib have more.

Paxton prosecutors ask for delay

Delay for pay, as it were.

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The special prosecutors handling the securities fraud case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are asking to put off his trial until they can get paid.

On Thursday, the prosecutors proposed moving the trial, currently set for May 1, to 60 days after a Dallas appeals court settles the payment dispute, which stems from a lawsuit by a Paxton supporter. Earlier this year, the 5th Court of Appeals temporarily blocked Collin County from paying the outside prosecutors assigned to the case, casting uncertainty over whether they would get paid as they prepare for trial in the high-profile case.

Collin County officials appointed special prosecutors Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice in 2015 after Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, a Paxton friend and business partner, stepped aside. Nicole Deborde, a Houston attorney, later joined the prosecution.

“Everyone in the courtroom is being paid to be there except us,” the prosecutors said in a statement Thursday. “No one expected us to work for free when we accepted our appointment as special prosecutors. It’s only fair to compensate us for the hours we’ve already spent and will continue to spend to adequately prepare to try this case on behalf of the citizens of the State of Texas.”


If granted, the motion would likely push the trial deeper into the year as prosecutors wait for a favorable ruling from the appeals court. In their filing Thursday, however, the prosecutors expressed confidence the trial would still proceed on a relatively prompt timeline.

“If the past is prologue, this case could be tried sooner rather than later, certainly no later than September 1, 2017,” the prosecutors wrote.

See here for the background. The logic seems inarguable to me – surely we don’t expect the special prosecutors to work for free at this point – but one never knows with the courts. It’s not clear to me what happens if the 5th Court overturns the lower court ruling and agrees that their pay has been capped. I don’t know that there’s an obvious answer to that. We’ll see what the trial court makes of this.

Paxton beats SEC rap again

Not a surprise.

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A federal judge has again thrown out securities fraud charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, effectively ending one of two legal battles that have dogged Paxton for close to a year.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant on Thursday dismissed the case “with prejudice,” making a final judgment on the charges that had been brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mazzant first threw out the charges last year but gave the SEC the opportunity to file amended allegations — which it did in October, keeping the case alive.


In its amended allegations, the SEC had sought to bolster its argument that Paxton had a legal duty to disclose to the investors that he was making a commission. Mazzant said Thursday the SEC had still not been persuasive enough.

“This case has not changed since the Court conditionally dismissed the Commission’s Original Complaint,” the judge wrote. “The primary deficiency was, and remains, that Paxton had no plausible legal duty to disclose his compensation arrangement with investors.”

See here, here, and here for the background. After the charges were dismissed the first time, I was skeptical of the second effort, but you never know what might happen. So much for that. This is a win for Paxton, but the big game begins May 1, in Collin County or somewhere else. That’s what will really matter. The Press has more.

UPDATE: RG Ratcliffe’s overview of the Paxton saga is well worth your time.

Twice the trials, twice the fun

The Paxton special prosecutors want to separate the charges into two trials.

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Special prosecutors said Thursday they would like to try Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton first on charges he failed to register as an investment advisor, pushing a lengthy trial on his securities fraud charges until a later date.

Kent Schaffer, one of the special prosecutors assigned to the case, said a trial on the registration charges can be completed within days and is a simpler case, whereas the fraud case could last weeks.

Schaffer said the fraud charges likely would be tried week or months after the registration case is finished.

News of the state’s intention riled Paxton’s defense team which had been under the impression the two securities fraud charges and the registration charge would be tried together.

The decision of whether to hold one trial or two is up to Tarrant County state District Judge George Gallagher. The judge also is expected to rule later on the prosecutors’ request for a change of venue.

The judge told both sides his intention was to at least try to pick a jury in Collin County, where the case is filed. The trial had been scheduled to begin May 1.

See here for the background on relocating the proceedings. The Trib has the details of that part of the hearing on Thursday.

The prosecutors called three witnesses to help make their case, including a Dallas TV reporter who recently conducted an interview with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in which Santorum described the case as a political vendetta against Paxton. The reporter, J.D. Miles, said Paxton ally Jeff Blackard helped arrange the interview, but “I’m not part of a conspiracy, and I wouldn’t know if there is one.”

The prosecution’s second witness was Wayne Dolcefino, a former TV news star who now runs a consulting firm. He testified that he gave the website leaked records from the Texas Rangers regarding the Paxton case.

Dolcefino has ties to Cogdell, Paxton’s attorney, whom he said has paid him several thousand dollars for a “research project.” Dolcefino insisted his work for Paxton’s lawyers did not involve the media and said he acted on his own when he leaked the records. He said he did it out of dissatisfaction with coverage of the Paxton case thus far and a desire to shine more light on a situation where taxpayer dollars are at stake.

“I did what I did, and I didn’t get paid for it,” Dolcefino said on the stand on Thursday, referring to giving the documents to

The third witness, Tom Dailey, is a business manager for Cumulus Media in Dallas, which handled a radio ad buy last year that was done under’s name. The ads cast doubt on the case against Paxton and promoted’s work.

The prosecutors asked Dailey to explain how the ads ran during popular times of day and reached Collin County listeners. Cogdell argued the ads will be almost five months old by the time jury selection begins and got Dailey to testify that he was unaware of a connection between the ad buy and Paxton himself.

Good to know that WayneDo still has some game, even if not on the air and even if not in Houston. I don’t have an opinion on the change of venue request. It is certainly the case that Republicans are standing by Paxton, and that surely must exert some pressure, but I don’t know how much difference it would make to move the trial to a similarly Republican county like, say, Williamson. Surely there are twelve people in Collin who have not been paying any attention to all this. As for having two trials instead of one, I understand where the prosecutors are coming from, but – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this – that seems kind of unfair to Paxton. I think he’s a giant pile of sleaze, but if he were any other high-profile defendant, I’d say he deserves to get this over with sooner rather than later, one way or the other. That’s the judge’s call, and we’ll see what he says.

Also the judge’s call, though not if Collin County Commissioners Court has any say in it, is the issue of how much the special prosecutors get paid.

Collin County officials think investigating and prosecuting elected officials like Attorney General Ken Paxton can be too costly, a complaint that could take them into the courtroom or even the state Legislature this year.

On Monday, the Commissioners Court voted to hire lawyers who’ll look into whether the county can challenge the constitutionality of the Texas Fair Defense Act, a state law that sets rules for paying court-appointed attorneys like public defenders and special prosecutors who investigate and pursue charges against officials accused of wrongdoing.

The law lets a group of local judges set these rates, which County Judge Keith Self said could violate the separation of powers that should exist between him and his colleagues on the commissioners court and the legal powers of the judiciary.

“We’re concerned about the unfettered and open access to the county checkbook by judges,” said Self, adding that the goal is to ensure “the commissioners court has has got to have some sort of control over the public purse” when it comes to the costs of high-profile prosecutions like Paxton’s.

The timing is important, too, Self said, because lawmakers meeting in Austin could rewrite the Fair Defense Act this year if the county decides to challenge the law.

The changes won’t have any effect on Paxton’s prosecution — his criminal trial is scheduled for May — but were sought in direct response to the six-figure cost of the attorney general’s fraud case.

“The Paxton case, which we can’t consider right now, has revealed the issues with the local rules and the state law,” Self said Wednesday. “So we believe that now is the time to do it because the Legislature is in session. And if we’re going to get the change in state law down, and some attention on the fact that we believe there’s a separation of powers issue here, we need to get it done.”

See here for some background. I do have some sympathy for the Commissioners, as this is not a mess of their making, and I agree the Lege is the place to go for a remedy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the rate at which special prosecutors are paid, I just think the simplest solution is to have the state pay for them. Especially for trials like this, local issues should not be allowed to become concerns. Let the state pony up and be done with it. Courthouse News has more.

More Paxton-versus-SEC stuff

Keeping the lawyers busy.

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Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton say the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cannot “shoot first and investigate later” as they seek to block 15 new subpoenas issued by the SEC.

It is the latest argument by Paxton’s attorneys in their effort to show the SEC is scrambling to save its civil securities fraud case against the attorney general, who is headed to trial later this year on similar criminal charges at the state level. Fighting the SEC charges, his team has already cast doubt on the credibility of a key witness in both cases, State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.

The new subpoenas, issued Tuesday, largely seek communications Paxton may have had with any other investors in Servergy, the North Texas start-up whose investors Paxton is accused of misleading from a period before he was elected Texas’ top law enforcement official in 2014.

“The SEC cannot now attempt to bolster its faltering case … by fishing around in discovery for information about other potential investors whom the SEC has not pled with any particularity that Mr. Paxton defrauded,” Paxton’s lawyers wrote in their latest filing.

See here, here, and here for some background. This is all separate from the criminal trial that is now scheduled. Such busy days for our AG.

Paxton’s trial date set

Mark your calendars, and stock up on the popcorn.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial on criminal securities fraud charges is set to begin May 1.

Jury selection will be held April 20-21 and April 27-28, according to a recent order by George Gallagher, the judge presiding over Paxton’s case. He also scheduled a hearing on pretrial motions for Feb. 16.

The trial will unfold in the heat of the legislative session, which began Tuesday and ends on May 29, and as campaigns get underway for the 2018 elections. Paxton plans to seek another term.


In the criminal case, Paxton faces three felony charges of breaking Texas securities law. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for five to 99 years.

Last year, Paxton exhausted his options in trying to put an end to the criminal case. The final blow came in October, when Texas’ highest criminal court declined to hear a Paxton appeal.

I think you know the background on this one. I’m not one for making predictions, but I will make one here: If Paxton gets convicted, he will not lose the support of any current statewide incumbent. They will rally around him, they will blame everyone but him for the outcome, and they will endorse him next March when and if he draws a primary opponent. I fully expect that he will be on the ballot next November. What happens if he wins re-election and loses his appeals, and has to serve time in jail? I guess we’ll find out. The DMN, the Chron, and the Lone Star Project have more.

Paxton wants SEC’s documents on him

More twists and turns.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s attorneys have gone to court, seeking to force the Securities and Exchange Commission to produce notes of their interviews with the investors whose allegations form the basis of the civil case against him.

Paxton’s attorneys filed the motion to compel the SEC to turn over the documents Wednesday. SEC officials have refused to turn over the documents calling them “work product.”

His attorneys contend an SEC attorney told him that turning over the interview notes would show “the direction that we steered (the witness) with our questions would give away our strategy,” the motion states.


The SEC’s amended filing claims that Paxton alleged that members of the group had a standing policy that “no member makes money or otherwise benefits off the investment of another member.” It states that “Investor 1 ‘informed and expressly’ told Mr. Paxton about supposed policies of the group,” the motion states. (Paxton’s attorneys contend that Investor 1 is a reference to Cook.)

The SEC’s prior filing did not mention the existence of any such policy.

In Paxton’s motion, lawyers for Paxton state that they received an email from Cook and Hochberg’s attorney stating that there “was no formal group,” but rather an “ad hoc arrangement for time to time, good friends might invest in the same transaction.”

“This is a dramatically different story than the tale the SEC has spun about a decades-old investment group with established policies and practices,” the motion states.

The motion says the attorney for Cook and Hochberg also stated that they did not consider Paxton to be their broker.

Paxton’s attorneys want notes of the SEC’s meeting with Cook and Hochberg to determine “where and how this divergence in stories occurred.”

The motion also notes that Paxton’s sworn statement was taken back in December 2014, yet the SEC did not take sworn testimony from potential investors in Servergy.

The SEC interviewed Cook and Hochberg before filing its original case in April, but did not take statements under oath.

See here and here for some background. “Cook” is State Rep. Byron Cook, “Hochberg” is another investor named Joel Hochberg. I have no idea what to make of any of this, but at this point I don’t expect much from this case. I’m waiting for the real trial, which will happen next year. The Chron and the Trib have more.

Paxton asks for SEC charges to be dismissed again

Once more, with feeling.

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Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked a federal judge to once again dismiss a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint accusing him of defrauding investors in private business deals in 2011.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III dismissed the SEC’s original complaint on Oct. 7, saying it contained allegations that weren’t supported by federal securities law. The SEC responded two weeks later with a revised complaintthat added details to the allegations that Paxton committed fraud by soliciting investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the tech company was paying him to hawk its stock.

Paxton lawyer Matthew Martens said the new complaint still falls short.

“As the court said four weeks ago, the SEC’s original complaint had no legal basis. Our motion to dismiss filed today explains why the SEC’s new complaint fares no better. The reason is simple — Mr. Paxton did not commit securities fraud,” Martens said.

Paxton’s lawyers told Mazzant that the SEC’s revised complaint failed, again, to show that Paxton had a legal duty to tell potential investors about his sales commission deal with Servergy.

“The commission to date has been unable to cite a single example where a court has recognized such a disclosure duty,” they told the judge.

See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the Paxton motion. I’m not a lawyer, but I have a hard time imagining what the SEC could have added that they didn’t include in the first place that might make a difference. But what do I know? We’ll see what the judge says this time. The DMN and the Chron have more.

Off to trial for Paxton

No more appeals, so a trial is in the works.

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Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are no longer asking to have a state securities fraud case against him dismissed, moving him closer to a trial on the criminal charges.

Paxton’s legal team confirmed Tuesday that it was getting ready for a trial, five days after a deadline passed for it to try one more time to persuade the state’s highest criminal court to look at the case. They apparently passed on that opportunity.

“We are preparing for trial in the state matter and have confidence in the strength of our case,” Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said in a statement.


In the state case, Paxton’s lawyers had until Thursday to appeal the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision last month not to examine the charges. The deadline came and went without Paxton’s team taking action, despite initially saying it planned to.

The Court of Criminal Appeals had already declined to hear Paxton’s appeal of the lower court rulings that allowed his indictments to stand. He had the opportunity to ask the CCA to reconsider their ruling, but his defense team apparently decided that wasn’t worth the effort. So here we are. I seem to recall a past news blurb that suggested his trial would be in the spring. That might be a bit of a distraction for the legislative session, in which case perhaps late spring/early summer will be a more likely time for this. Whenever it happens, it will be the biggest story in the state. Trail Blazers has more.

SEC to try again with Paxton

If at first you don’t succeed

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Best mugshot ever

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is not giving up on its case against Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The commission filed amended civil charges against Paxton on Friday, two weeks after a federal judge dismissed the case. Paxton, who is also fighting similar criminal charges at the state level, is accused of misleading investors in a company years ago.

“We are disappointed by the SEC’s decision to continue this case, given the court’s opinion and the clear infirmities the court found with the commission’s original complaint,” Paxton lawyer Matthew Martens said in a statement. “We will evaluate the revised complaint and respond accordingly.”

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III threw out the SEC case against Paxton but gave the commission 14 days — until Friday — to file amended allegations.

The updated charges contend that the group of investors Paxton allegedly duped when he persuaded them to invest in a tech start-up called Servergy “reasonably expected” him to disclose he was receiving a commission. According to the SEC, the members of the group had a standing policy that “no one member makes money or otherwise benefits off of the investment of another member.”

The amended allegations also amplify the SEC’s argument that Paxton did not simply fail to disclose but “actively concealed” his commission agreement from the investor group. He did so, the SEC says, by not mentioning it in filings with the Texas Ethics Commission and the IRS, ignoring efforts by the group to learn about his relationship with Servergy and mischaracterizing the compensation as a kind of gift when asked about it by the SEC.

See here for the background. I have no idea if this is a necessary technical correction to allow otherwise-viable charges to go forward, or if it’s a “what the heck, we may as well give it one last try” situation. Paxton still has the criminal charges to deal with, so if nothing else this is a distraction from that. Trail Blazers has more.

CCA declines to take Paxton off the hook

Sorry, Kenny.

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Best mugshot ever

The highest criminal court in Texas said Wednesday it will not hear Ken Paxton’s appeal of securities fraud charges, putting the attorney general on a path to facing a trial in the coming months.

“Today’s ruling marks an end to Mr. Paxton’s almost year-long attempt to avoid being judged by a jury of his peers,” Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors handling Paxton’s case, said in a statement. “We look forward to going to trial and seeking justice on behalf of the people of Texas.”

The decision Wednesday was made by the Court of Criminal Appeals, which Paxton’s lawyers had asked to review the case as a last resort before trial. Without comment, the court announced it would not consider the appeal.

The decision makes the prospect of the state’s top lawyer sitting through a trial more likely than ever. The proceedings could start as early as next spring.

With the good news comes the bad news, I guess. This doesn’t mean that the CCA couldn’t step in to save Paxton later, after a conviction on one or more charges, it just means that they don’t see any reason for them to stop a trial from happening in the first place. So a trial we will have, barring the exceedingly unlikely event of a plea bargain. Stock up on the popcorn, y’all. Trail Blazers, the Current, and the Lone Star Project have more.

Paxton beats SEC rap

Two down, one left.

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Best mugshot ever

A judge has thrown out the federal civil case accusing Attorney General Ken Paxton of securities fraud, giving him his biggest legal victory yet since the allegations surfaced more than a year ago.

U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III on Friday granted Paxton’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit but gave the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 14 days to amend its allegations against the attorney general. Paxton is still fighting similar criminal charges at the state level.

Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a company from before he took office as Texas’ top lawyer. One of the central allegations is that he persuaded a group of people to invest in the company, a technology startup known as Severgy, without disclosing that he was receiving a commission.

“This case is not about whether Paxton had a moral obligation to disclose his financial arrangement with Servergy to potential investors,” Mazzant wrote in a 29-page ruling. “This case is also not about whether Paxton had some general obligation to disclose his financial arrangement to his investor group.”

Rather, Mazzant concluded, the case is about whether Paxton had a legal obligation to make a disclosure, and he did not — at least according to the facts put forward by the SEC.

See here for the background. No question, this is a big win for Paxton. I’m not qualified to say whether this result tells us anything about how the state case may go, but the bottom line is that the state case is now the only thing he has to worry about. The Chron and the Press have more.

A good day in court for Paxton

He may well get those SEC charges dismissed.

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Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission received skeptical treatment Friday from a federal judge who is considering whether to dismiss the civil fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton.

From the outset, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III noted that the SEC’s case against Paxton was unlike those he usually sees from the commission. Mazzant came across as less than persuaded by one of its central arguments. At one point, Mazzant suggested the SEC was trying to fit a “square peg into a round hole,” basing its case on precedents that do not back up their arguments.

“The court’s hard-pressed to find a case that fits into the allegation the SEC is making,” Mazzant said, “and that troubles the court.”

The judge did not rule immediately at the end of the 90-minute hearing inside a Sherman courtroom. He said he instead plans to issue a decision in 30 days.


Largely at issue Friday was whether Paxton committed securities fraud by simply leaving out information in his dealing with investors, not necessarily making misleading statements. Paxton lawyer Matthew Martens argued that the attorney general’s actions did not amount to fraud, leaning heavily on the argument that every court that has previously looked at the issue has rejected the SEC’s argument. Meanwhile, SEC lawyer Matthew Gulde asked Mazzant to look more broadly at Paxton’s actions as a “pattern of conduct” in which he acted as a “secret broker” and had at least two duties to tell investors he was being compensated.

“It doesn’t matter what we call it,” Gulde said. “It is a secret quid pro quo that needs to be disclosed.”

They sparred less extensively over another charge in the case involving Paxton’s failure to register as a securities broker. Paxton’s side argued that his action did not meet any definition of the term, while SEC lawyers countered that they were downplaying how active of a role Paxton had in recruiting investors. “Mr. Paxton is not someone who’s walking into this blindly,” Gulde said.

Mazzant often appeared more sympathetic to Paxton’s arguments, suggesting that Gulde was reaching to find case law to support the SEC’s case — at least with the current facts alleged. “I don’t know how we get there,” Mazzant said at one point.

See here and here for the background. The state charges against Paxton are higher stakes, because the SEC case is a civil one, for which only a fine could be levied. Getting the charges tossed, if that is what happens, would still be a pretty big win for Paxton, as at the very least it lends credibility to his whole “I’m being persecuted” schtick. He needs his supporters to keep the faith, and his underwriters to keep those checks coming. He’s already beaten the Bar Association grievances, so this would give him two in a row. The third one is way bigger than the other two, though. We should know where he stands in a month. The Chron has more.

Paxton’s day in SEC court

That’s a slightly misleading headline, but you get the point.

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Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will argue Friday morning in a Sherman courtroom that the federal civil fraud case against him should be dismissed, their latest effort to unwind the legal troubles that have dogged Paxton for more than a year.


In the SEC case, Paxton’s lawyers have argued the allegations represent a “dramatic overreach and lack any basis in law.” The SEC lawsuit, they also say, does not claim he made any false or misleading statements to potential investors in Servergy, a technology startup at the center of both cases.

“Mr. Paxton should not be left to labor under a cloud of suspicion while enduring years of costly discovery to refute claims that are meritless on their face,” Paxton’s lawyers wrote in their June motion to dismiss the SEC lawsuit.

They will get the chance to press that argument at 9 a.m. Friday in federal district court in Sherman before U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III. Paxton’s team is being led by Matthew Martens, a former top lawyer for the SEC.

James Spindler, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he would not be surprised if the court dismisses at least some of the charges before trial. He said SEC lawyers “have their work cut out for them” in specifically proving the charges of fraud, which he called “factually dense inquiries” in the context of a case like this one.

“Overall, it seems a little questionable,” said Spindler, an expert in securities regulation. “It depends really on what the facts are, and they haven’t disclosed a lot of the facts of the case yet.”

See here for the background. Let’s wait and see what the government’s case is before we make any guesses about his odds of success.

In the meantime, this also happened.

The state’s highest criminal court Wednesday morning dismissed all three appeals filed on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s behalf, saying his lawyers neglected to include everything needed on the petitions.

The Court of Criminal Appeals gave Paxton 10 days to add what was missing — a copy of the concurring opinion from the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals, which in June rejected Paxton’s request to dismiss criminal charges related to private business deals from 2011 and 2012.

Defense lawyers corrected the mistake a little more than two hours after the court issued the unsigned order, which was opposed by Judges Barbara Hervey and Michael Keasler.

“We inadvertently left off attaching to our petition a copy of the concurring opinion from the court of appeals. We have cured the oversight and have refiled,” Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said.

The error isn’t expected to significantly delay the handling of Paxton’s appeal.


A trial on the SEC’s accusations has been tentatively set for Sept. 11, 2017, and is expected to last about two weeks.

Lawyers have said a trial on Paxton’s criminal charges, if upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals, could take place in the spring of 2017.

An oops, but not a big deal. The schedule information at the end of the story is more interesting. If Paxton isn’t successful in getting charges against him dropped, next year is going to be very busy for him. Judge Mazzant is not expected to rule today, so it will be awhile before we know this part of Paxton’s fate.

Paxton rejects settlement talks with SEC

Not a surprise.

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Best mugshot ever

Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing charges he duped investors in a North Texas startup, is refusing to engage in settlement talks with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission – and could be the last holdout in the case if it goes to trial.

William Mapp, the founder and CEO of the company for which Paxton is accused of illegally selling securities, is open to negotiating a legal settlement with the SEC, according to court records.

“From Mr. Paxton’s standpoint, there’s nothing to settle and that’s a big difference between our position and Mr. Mapp’s position,” said Bill Mateja, Paxton’s lawyer. “We expect to be exonerated. We want our day in court and we believe we will be exonerated.”

Paxton, who indicated to the court this month he would refuse to negotiate, would be the lone defendant left to fight charges from the SEC should Mapp agree to a settlement.


The parties are due in a Sherman federal district court Friday to give oral arguments on whether the SEC charges should be dismissed.

Unless the case is dismissed or Mapp signs a settlement deal, Paxton and Mapp will be tried together, likely in the fall of 2017.

Charges filed by the SEC in April also named former Servergy director Caleb White and Servergy. Both have settled with the SEC.

White paid $66,000 he received in commissions and returned 20,000 shares of stock to the company. Servergy paid a $200,000 penalty.

See here, here, and here for the background. Whatever the merits of the SEC case against him, Paxton cannot afford to settle this case. He’s bet everything on getting off the hook on the state charges, and settling with the SEC would send a very mixed signal to the vocal supporters who have been loudly insisting he’s being railroaded. Politically, losing this case is a better outcome for him than a slap-on-the-wrist settlement, because it’s in keeping with the narrative of him being a fighter that’s being persecuted. The best outcome, of course, is for the charges to be dismissed. We’ll see how it goes.

Servergy sued by more people

Servergy is the company Ken Paxton was paid to shill for without being up front about the fact that he was being paid to shill for them. That’s the context of this.

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Best mugshot ever

The company tied to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s indictments lied to dozens of investors from Alabama about a “miracle” product it couldn’t sell, stockholders allege in a lawsuit that seeks to recoup nearly $3 million from the firm.


Now, dozens of Alabamans are suing, saying they invested $2.8 million in Servergy in 2013 after receiving “bogus” information about the firm’s success from Mapp and other leaders. Their stock is now worthless, they said, and they want their money back.

Their lawsuit was filed in February but hasn’t been previously reported. It was included as a “related pending case” in the federal lawsuit against Paxton. The attorney general is not mentioned by name and is not a target of the lawsuit, which was filed in Dallas County District Court, but the Alabama investors cite his indictment in their complaint.

In their suit, the Alabama investors said they were unaware the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating Servergy until the federal government sued the company to force it to comply with a subpoena for documents. Servergy never informed them of the probe, they say.

They allege that over the course of nearly a year in 2013, Servergy’s top officers held at least three “roadshow” presentations in their small city of Fairhope, hoping to entice new capital to help them fund a “miracle” server that was smaller yet more powerful than similar servers. Company representatives said they had pre-sold the server to Amazon, Netflix, NASA and the city of Beijing in China, and that Facebook, Walmart and CVS were also waiting on their product.

These claims “had no basis in fact,” the Alabama investors allege.

“Servergy’s claim that IBM and others were already waiting to buy out the Company, and that one such offer to purchase the Company already was in hand which would result in a quick 10-45% return for investors, was a lie,” the lawsuit says. “Even the chart that Servergy provided investors to tout the Company’s CTS-1000 server as compared to the competition was false.”

See here, here, and here for some background. This isn’t directly about Paxton, though without Servergy Paxton wouldn’t be in the trouble he’s in. And the allegations of utter dishonesty regarding the non-existent products Servergy – and by extension Paxton – was trying to get people to invest their money in goes to character. I mean, whatever the legalities of all this ultimately amount to, Paxton either had to know he was lying, or he didn’t do anywhere near the kind of due diligence he should have done before selling Servergy stock to his friends. His high-priced attorneys can’t make that fact go away.

State Bar dismisses other complaint against Paxton

No matter what else happens, our ethically challenged Attorney General can say he beat at least one rap against him.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Attorney General Ken Paxton telling county clerks they do not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is not a sign of “professional misconduct,” according to the State Bar of Texas.

The organization last week dismissed a complaint filed against the embattled top prosecutor by more than 200 Texas attorneys, who argued that he “violated his own official oath of office” by issuing a written opinion stating that clerks and public officials could ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

In an Aug. 3 notice obtained by The Texas Tribune, the State Bar said, “The Chief Disciplinary Counsel has determined that there is no just cause to believe that [Paxton] has committed professional misconduct.”


Steve Fischer, a former director of the State Bar of Texas and one of the attorneys who filed the complaint, said that while he didn’t get the result he wanted, there is “no further interest to continue the grievance.”

“We sort of made our point that he can’t tell clerks to disobey a Supreme Court’s ruling,” he said. “It’s the law of the land. He’s entitled to his own personal opinion, but he should draw a line.”

See here for the background. This may not have risen to the level of misconduct, but it was hardly exemplary conduct either, especially from the Attorney General. I don’t think a mild slap on the wrist of some kind would have been out of place, but whatever. Everyone who wants to get married in Texas can do so, and the matter hardly raises any eyebrow any more. Whatever happened with this complaint, Paxton lost the real fight, with barely a whimper. I’ll take that.

Meanwhile, in other Paxton-trouble news, the special prosecutors have filed their response to his petition to the Court of Criminal Appeals to have the felony charges against him dismissed.

Defense lawyers raised issues that cannot be appealed before trial or were correctly decided when the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals upheld criminal charges accusing Paxton of securities fraud and failing to register with state securities regulators, prosecutors told the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“The Court of Criminal Appeals grants less than 4 percent of all petitions for discretionary review filed by criminal defendants. Our reply makes it clear that Mr. Paxton’s petition is not one of them,” prosecutor Brian Wice said.

The prosecutors also argued that Paxton, who filed his appeal Aug. 1, waited too long to challenge the two felony fraud charges, requiring that portion of his appeal to be automatically dismissed.

You can see the state’s reply here. They rebutted each of the defense’s specific claims in addition to asserting that the defense filing was too late, but the legalese was too thick for me to make it all the way through without my eyes glazing over. Suffice it to say, the prosecution begged to differ.

And finally, Paxton is asking the SEC for more time in his fraud case on their docket.

Contemplating an aggressive round of depositions, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked for an additional 3½ months to question potential witnesses about allegations that Paxton defrauded investors in private business deals five years ago.

The additional time, if granted by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III, would delay until at least September 2017 a civil trial on fraud allegations made by federal regulators.

In a recent court filing, Paxton’s lawyers told the judge they will need more time to question as many as 46 potential witnesses, including state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and his wife, Kay.


Another reason to grant a delay, lawyers told Mazzant, is that Paxton could face a criminal trial as early as spring 2017 on state felony fraud charges related to his actions on behalf of Servergy.

“Mr. Paxton respectfully submits that, as a matter of fairness, the trial of his criminal matter should occur prior to the trial of this matter,” his lawyers said.

Paxton’s lawyers also informed Mazzant that they are not interested in reaching an out-of-court settlement with the SEC. Neither side has requested or made a settlement offer, they added.

SEC lawyers told Mazzant they expect to finish their depositions — which would include questioning Paxton and his wife, Angela — by Feb. 6. Paxton’s lawyers pressed for a May 26 deadline on depositions.

See here and here for the background. Paxton has also filed a motion to dismiss the SEC charges against him, which still awaits the judge’s ruling. You have to admit, defending himself from a myriad of charges relating to his bad behavior is a full-time job, so Paxton has a compelling case for delay here. We’ll see if the judge grants it.

Paxton appeals to CCA

Last chance to avoid a trial or a plea deal.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing the securities fraud charges against him to the state’s highest criminal court, in one last bid to dismiss the case before it potentially goes to trial.

Paxton’s attorneys filed the appeal Tuesday with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, asking the Austin-based court to do away with the three felony indictments facing the attorney general. The case, now more than a year old, centers on allegations that Paxton misled investors in private business dealings from before his time as attorney general.

“Ken Paxton has been charged with a crime that simply doesn’t exist, using a grand jury that was improperly impaneled,” Paxton lawyer Bill Mateja said in a statement. “This petition was filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals to not only correct the lower court’s mistake but to end this improper prosecution.”

The special prosecutors handling Paxton’s case countered that a lower appeals court has already ruled that many of the issues Paxton is bringing up cannot be addressed before trial. Earlier this year, the Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by Paxton to get rid of the charges ahead of time.

“By simply asking for a ‘do-over,’ Mr. Paxton’s petition falls far short of the exacting standard he must meet before the State’s highest criminal court will review a court of appeals’ decision,” read a statement from the prosecutors, Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice.

See here and here for the latest updates. This was always going to go to the CCA, it was just a matter of how long it took to get there. And for all their supposed pro-prosecution tendencies, the CCA sure does seem to have a soft spot for Republican defendants, so anything can happen here. My guess is that if the CCA takes up the appeal – they could decline to do that, but I can’t imagine they will – the single most likely outcome is that they allow the indictments to stand, on the grounds that this isn’t the time for them to get involved. The more interesting question will be whether they tip their hand about how the future appeal of the trial verdict may go. That’s getting way ahead of ourselves, so let’s sit back for now and see if they take up the case or not. The DMN has more.

District appeals court declines to reconsider Paxton indictment

Sorry, Kenny.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

A state appeals court Thursday rejected Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion to reconsider its June 1 ruling that upheld criminal charges against him.

The two-sentence order from the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals gave no reason for the ruling.


Paxton will have 30 days to decide whether to take his appeal to the next, and final, stop — the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court.

Further appeals appeared likely Thursday.

“We are evaluating our options but anticipate that we will petition the Court of Criminal Appeals, as we strongly disagree with this court’s reasoning and rationale,” Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said.

See here for the background. At this point the only step left is the Court of Criminal Appeals, and if/when they reject the motion it’ll be on to the trial phase. On the assumption that they do reject any and all motions to dismiss, it will be important to see why they reject it. It’s one thing for them to do so on the merits of the claims, and another entirely if the reason given is basically “now is not the time to make these claims”, which was the initial reason for Rick Perry’s motions to be denied. Whatever the case, expect the filings to land with the CCA in the next few weeks.